Review of China’s Foreign Trade in the First Three Quarters of 2020

Review of Chinas Foreign Trade in the First Three Quarters of 2020

General Administration of Customs

Peoples Republic of China

October 13, 2020


Since the start of this year, China has scaled up macro policy response to cushion the shock of COVID-19, made efforts to ensure stability on the six fronts and security in the six areasand scored major achievement in combating the pandemic while ensuring socioeconomic development. The policies of stabilizing foreign trade have started to pay off, and the imports and exports are better than expected.

According to Customs statistics, China’s foreign trade volume in goods in the first three quarters of 2020 reached RMB23.12 trillion, up by 0.7% year on year (similarly hereinafter). Exports grew by 1.8% to RMB12.71 trillion and imports declined by 0.6% to RMB10.41 trillion.

The details are as follows:

1. Foreign trade has been recovering quarter on quarter, now registering positive cumulative growth.

The growth of Chinas imports and exports in the first and second quarter of 2020 was -6.5% and -0.2%, respectively. The imports and exports of the third quarter increased by 7.5% to RMB8.88 trillion, with exports growing by 10.2% to RMB5 trillion and imports rising by 4.3 % to RMB3.88 trillion. The total volume of exports, imports and the two combined have all reached a historical high. The cumulative export volume of the first 8 months registered positive growth, so does the cumulative foreign trade volume of the first three quarters.

2. Imports and exports in private sector increased, playing a more prominent role in stabilizing the foreign trade.

In the first three quarters of 2020, Chinas private sector registered RMB10.66 trillion in imports and exports, an increase of 10.2%, accounting for 46.1% of the countrys total foreign trade volume, 4 percentage points higher year on year.

Exports stood at RMB7.02 trillion, up by 10%, accounting for 55.2% of Chinas total exports. Imports reached RMB3.64 trillion, an increase of 10.5%, taking up 35% of the countrys total imports.

Foreign-invested enterprises marked RMB8.91 trillion in foreign trade, accounting for 38.5% of the countrys total foreign trade volume. State-owned enterprises witnessed RMB3.46 trillion in imports and exports, taking up 15% of the total foreign trade volume.

3. Foreign trade with major trading partners keeps growing, with ASEAN being Chinas largest trading partner.

In the first three quarters of 2020, trade with ASEAN, the largest trading partner of China, registered RMB3.38 trillion, an increase of 7.7%, accounting for 14.6% of Chinas total foreign trade volume. Trade with EU, US, Japan and Korea reached RMB3.23 trillion, RMB2.82 trillion, RMB1.61 trillion and RMB1.45 trillion, up by 2.9%, 2%, 1.4% and 1.1%, respectively. Trade with countries involved in the Belt and Road Initiative reached RMB6.75 trillion, an increase of 1.5%.

4. General trade volume increased, with trade structure being continuously optimized.

In the first three quarters of 2020, general trade increased by 2.1% to RMB13.92 trillion, accounting for 60.2% of Chinas total foreign trade volume, 0.8 percentage points higher than the previous year. Exports grew by 3.8% to RMB7.57 trillion. Imports rose by 0.1% to RMB6.35 trillion. Processing trade dropped by 6.4% to RMB5.39 trillion.

5. Growth of exports of electro-mechanical products re-entered positive territory and exports of supplies to combat COVID-19 grew fast.

In the first three quarters of 2020, exports of electro-mechanical products increased by 3.2% to RMB7.46 trillion, 5.5 percentage points higher than that of the first half of the year, taking up 58.7% of the countrys total exports. Due to lifestyle changes caused by COVID-19, the exports of laptops and home appliances went up by 17.6% and 17.3%, respectively.

At the same time, exports of seven categories of labor-intensive products such as textiles and clothes rose by 5.4% to RMB2.59 trillion, accounting for 20.4% of the countrys overall exports. Exports of textile products including face masks surged by 37.5% to RMB828.78 billion. Exports of medicines and pharmaceutical products, and medical equipment increased by 21.8% and 48.2%, respectively.

6. Imports of bulk commodities and key agricultural products increased.

In the first three quarters of 2020, China imported 868 million tons of iron ore, up by 10.8%; 416 million tons of crude oil, up by 12.7%; 239 million tons of coal, down by 4.4%; 73.731 million tons of natural gas, up by 3.7%.

Imports of soybeans and meat registered rapid growth in the first three quarters of 2020. Imports of soybeans grew by 15.5% to 74.529 million tons. Imports of pork surged by 132.2% to 3.286 million tons. Imports of beef increased by 38.8% to 1.572 million tons.

As the COVID-19 continues to spread worldwide, the global economy plunges into deep recession, the international landscape becomes increasingly grim and complicated, and instability and uncertainties are on the rise.

China Customs, guided by Xi Jinpings Thoughts on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era, will make consistent efforts to contain the cross-border spreading of COVID-19 and facilitate social and economic development in line with the decisions and requirements of the CPC Central Committee and the State Council. At the same time, the Customs will ride the momentum to ensure stability on the six fronts and security in the six areas. Adhering to the principle of pursuing progress while ensuring stability and sticking to new development philosophies, the Customs will further promote trade facilitation, foster new drivers for foreign trade, push for the innovative development of foreign trade, and build new development patterns, thus making greater contributions to achieving the countrys economic and social goals for this year.


(This is the translated English version and the Chinese version shall prevail.)



General Administration of Customs of the People's Republic of China

Address: No.6. Jianguomennei Avenue, Dongcheng District, Beijing, China        Postcode: 100730